A straightforward out-and-back over really wonderful terrain.
Hiking Trail Description
I was not prepared for how much I would fall in love with this hike. My plan was to check both peaks off my 3500 list and then just move on. Wrong. So wrong. 100% dead-ass wrong.
It’s a bit of a schlep out to Denning, but the last stretch of Denning Road is really something. You pass weird YMCA camps, weird yurts, and a large weird building with a Japanese-style roof. I don’t know what goes on in any of those buildings. Some of them give off a very strong Get Out vibe.
But as the road winds along the riparian corridor, through evergreen stands and over Neversink River, you start to feel like you’re arriving somewhere very, very special. Eventually, the road turns to classic Catskill iron-oxide red dirt. It ends in a large, sometimes-muddy lot.
The DEC register is right by the parking area. Judging by the number of entries in the register, this is a very popular destination for hikers. But it doesn’t feel like it. The whole area feels remote.
Denning & Neversink
The first 1.2 mile section follows the Finger Lakes Trail gently uphill on a very wide trail that seems well-maintained. It’s partially on private property and seems to be an access road.
At the first junction, you leave the FLT and turn right, heading downhill. It’s a little rocky. This is really where the hike begins, as you cross the Neversink using two footbridges. It’s a lovely area, and there are several places to camp.
At around 2600’ you’ll come to two small ledge systems. Easy stuff, but very pretty.
After the trail turns east, at around 2750’, and just over a knob, you’ll pass two giant rock cubes — so huge, you can walk in between them. They’re so symmetrical, and so evenly arranged, I wondered if they were man-made.
On this day, I was solo hiking, so the photo below, with nothing to demonstrate scale, doesn’t do their impressive size justice.
All along this trail, the terrain and woods change constantly — one of the things I loved so much about this hike. I’m not a huge fan of woods walks, but this whole area was just consistently varied and interesting.
About ⅕ mile after the cubes, and some elevation gain, you’ll start to see Van Wyck poke through the trees on your right. The scenic lookout marked on NYNJTC trail maps is off-trail, to the right. With fresh snow on the ground I didn’t see a spur so, for me, it was a micro-bushwhack.
The ledge there is small but offers a great view of Van Wyck. To your left, in the distance, you can also see Peekamoose’s ridge and summit.
Hiking from the north, you come upon Table’s summit almost immediately. It’s marked by a tree right in the middle of the trail.
Before Table had a maintained trail, it was a bushwhack mountain. You can see the scrap metal remnants of the old canister on the east side of the tree. A small ledge on that side is a good place to sit and have a quick snack.
For me, the trek over to Peekamoose in the snow was an absolute treat. First, the walk along Table’s flat ridge, winding through the woods, is so great.
Then, in the snow and ice, a slightly tricky descent down the eastern side to the col.
Cols are special. They’ve become increasingly meaningful and emotional places for me. I don’t know why. Each one feels different but, in every one, an oddly familiar note hangs in the air — like the cover of a song I’ve never heard, or nostalgia for a place I’ve never visited.
Near the middle of the col, there’s a stand of tall young pine and hemlock trees. With the sunlight shining through, in the bitter cold, it just was so heavenly.
The hike up to Peekamoose’s summit doesn’t take long and the environment is fantastic: pine trees, moss, rocks — the best Catskills ingredients.
The summit is marked with a large glacial erratic. It’s a little before the summit location shown on maps, but clearly is the highest point around. I make sure to climb it every time — but think twice about doing this if it’s wet.
A little farther along the trail, on the left side, there’s a great lookout ledge. On this day, I walked right past it and didn’t find it. But it’s actually not hard to find. I don’t know how I walked by it. On subsequent hikes, I found it easily.
It’s a large multi-layered rock ledge with a great view of Ashokan High Point and the reservoir. A good place for your lunch or dinner. If it’s very windy, like it was today, you can retreat to the erratic which provides excellent shelter.
It was very cold and my energy was flagging so I turned around, here, and hiked back to Denning. However, if you have time and energy, the 0.85 mile hike to the scenic view southwest of the summit is absolutely worth the additional schelp.
There are two ledges, maybe 100’ apart, and both are worth visiting. They give even better views of Van Wyck, with its distinctive steep slopes. This time from much higher up, the surrounding Catskills roll out to the horizon. You won’t believe how far you can see, or how far you’ve come.
An Alternate Route? Nah…
Peekamoose and Table can also be hiked from the south via the same trail, starting down on Route 42. Hiking from there, you begin below 1250’ and have to climb apx. 2600’ of elevation over 4 miles to get to Peekamoose. It’s said to be the most elevation gain on a trail section in the Catskill Park. But the trail is not interesting. It’s just a long woods walk. I recommend hiking from the Denning side: you start higher up, so it’s less of a climb, and the terrain and the walk are so much better.
It’s not always about the peaks. There are so many trails and trail sections in the Catskills I’ve yet to hike. Top of my list is the trail from Terrace Mountain to Phoenicia, which I hear is really special. (Requires a short car shuttle.) Of the sections I’ve hiked, the col between Wittenberg and Cornell is another favorite. The grand ridge of Plateau is an easy stretch to recommend, too, though the ascents from either side are very challenging. Finally, hiking Windham High Peak via Burnt Knob is a long, pleasant stretch of trail that’s absolutely packed with spectacular views of the Blackhead range.
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Description: Large lot, often muddy.
Address: 3363 Denning Rd, Claryville, NY 12725
Due to the nature of rural addresses, this address is an approximation; it’s the “close enough address” I use to get driving directions from my phone. Click to launch Google Maps in a new window/tab.
Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.